National Open Government Plan Released Today, includes Citizen Science, Crowdmapping

Advancing Open and Citizen-Centered Government, OSTP Blog

“Today, the United States released our third Open Government National Action Plan, announcing more than 40 new or expanded initiatives to advance the President’s commitment to an open and citizen-centered government.

The release is part of our membership in the Open Government Partnership — launched by President Obama and seven other heads of state — which in just 4 years has grown from 8 to now 66 countries. Member countries and their civil society partners are all working to increase public integrity, enhance public access to information, improve management of public resources, and give the public a more active voice in government processes. As a member of the Open Government Partnership, the United States issues Open Government National Action Plans outlining ambitious commitments to advance open government every 2 years.

The release of this plan coincides with the Open Government Partnership Summit taking place this week in Mexico City, where more than 2,000 open government reformers from member governments and civil society organizations are gathering.”


Citizen science was mentioned in the Third Open Government National Action Plan, released today, including

Open Science (p. 9-10):

  • Encourage Increased Public Participation in Open Science Using Low cost Scientific Instruments. One step that the Federal government could take to increase participation in citizen science and crowdsourcing is to develop hardware and software tools that are affordable, easy to use, and easy to improve.The Administration will kick off an interagency dialogue to identify best practices for how the Federal government can foster the development of low-cost scientific instrumentation and work with stakeholders through workshops and ideation challenges to identify opportunities for getting them into the hands of volunteers, such as air-quality monitors or wearables for monitoring personal health. Using these low-cost scientific instruments, volunteers can contribute their expertise to help advance a variety of scientific and society goals.

3. Engage the Public on our Nation’s Greatest Challenge (p. 12-13), including:

  • “The EPA will expand the use of citizen science approaches in environmental research by engaging amateur beekeepers to provie data to better understand the effects of environmental stressors and by engaging citizen scientists in research on harmful algal blooms using smartphone microscopy.”
  • “The USGS will roll out Science Cache, a web and mobile-based app for engaging the public in citizen science projects, such as finding huckleberry plants in Glacier National Park and taking pictures and recording data to inform research on climate change impacts.”
  • “The National Archives will expand its citizen archivist program that makes records more accessible online to include citizen-scanning of federal records in the agency’s new Innovation Hub.”
  • “Federal agencies will catalog their current open innovation activities including prizes, challenges, citizen science, and crowdsourcing activities…In addition, GSA will create a new project database that lists citizen science and crowdsourcing projects from across government.”

4. Collaborate with Citizen and Global Cartographers in Open Mapping (p. 13), including State Department, USAID, Peace Corps, and USGS will continue and expand crowdsourcing mapping efforts.

Big Announcements in Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science at White House Event


Memo: Addressing Societal and Scientific Challenges Through Citizen Science and Crowdsourcing:

Blog post:



White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, in partnership with the Federal Community of Practice on Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science

Blog post:



The NSF Director Dr. France Cordova announces that citizen science and crowdsourcing—“a visionary concept”– will be a core priority for NSF in the coming fiscal year. Her presentation begins about 32 min into the Citizen Science Forum video, and the announcement is at 40:49. The written announcement will come from OMB later this year.

NSF Press Release: Be a (citizen) scientist! (of note, NSF has made $5,613,201 in grants and related awards that support research in this area):


The Citizen Science Association and partners, including the Federal Community of Practice on Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science, announced plans to organize a Citizen Science Day on April 16, 2015, which will kick off a series of events nationwide.



White House Citizen Science Forum, in partnership with the Federal Community of Practice on Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science

YouTube Video:

Holdren Opening Remarks (waiting for them to be posted):

Blog Post:


The Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science Act of 2015 provides clarification to government agencies, removing ambiguity about whether an agency can use crowdsourcing techniques. Senator Coons (D-DE) and Senator Daines (R-MT) co-sponsored the bill.

Text of the Bill:

Press release:

The Government Wants You to Help It Do Science Experiments, Senator Chris Coons, Wired Magazine

First in MT…Coons to Unveil Federal Crowdsourcing Bill

Senator Coons Introduces Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science Act of 2015 by Gene Quinn, IPWatchdog

  Read More…

US Senate introduces Geospatial Data Reform Act 2015

Latest Title: Geospatial Data Act of 2015
Sponsor: Sen Hatch, Orrin G. [UT] (introduced 3/16/2015)      Cosponsors (1)
Latest Major Action: 3/16/2015 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.


Also see the congressional record (search for word “geospatial”):

US GAO Reports on Geospatial Data

Geospatial Investments

“Better coordination among federal agencies that collect, maintain, and use geospatial information could help reduce duplication of geospatial investments and provide the opportunity for potential savings of millions of dollars.”

For full analysis, please visit GAO here.

Geospatial Data:Progress Needed on Identifying Expenditures, Building and Utilizing a Data Infrastructure, and Reducing Duplicative Efforts [Reissued March 18, 2015]

GAO-15-193: Published: Feb 12, 2015. Publicly Released: Mar 16, 2015.

Geospatial Information: OMB and Agencies Can Reduce Duplication by Making Coordination a Priority

GAO-14-226T: Published: Dec 5, 2013. Publicly Released: Dec 5, 2013.

Geospatial Information: OMB and Agencies Need to Make Coordination a Priority to Reduce Duplication
GAO-13-94: Published: Nov 26, 2012. Publicly Released: Nov 26, 2012.

Information Technology: OMB Needs to Improve Its Guidance on IT Investments
GAO-11-826: Published: Sep 29, 2011. Publicly Released: Oct 26, 2011.

Geospatial Information: Better Coordination Needed to Identify and Reduce Duplicative Investments
GAO-04-703: Published: Jun 23, 2004. Publicly Released: Jun 23, 2004.

NEW US Govt Accountability Office Report on Geospatial Data

Geospatial Data: Progress Needed on Identifying Expenditures, Building and Utilizing Data Infrastructure, and Reducing Duplicative Efforts (GAO-15-193, Released March 16, 2015).Federal agencies and state governments use a variety of geospatial datasets to support their missions. For example, after Hurricane Sandy in 2012, the Federal Emergency Management Agency used geospatial data to identify 44,000 households that were damaged and inaccessible and reported that, as a result, it was able to provide expedited assistance to area residents. Federal agencies report spending billions of dollars on geospatial investments; however, the estimates are understated because agencies do not always track geospatial investments. For example, these estimates do not include billions of dollars spent on earth-observing satellites that produce volumes of geospatial data. The Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) have started an initiative to have agencies identify and report annually on geospatial-related investments as part of the fiscal year 2017 budget process.

FGDC and selected federal agencies have made progress in implementing their responsibilities for the National Spatial Data Infrastructure as outlined in OMB guidance; however, critical items remain incomplete. For example, the committee established a clearinghouse for records on geospatial data, but the clearinghouse lacks an effective search capability and performance monitoring. FGDC also initiated plans and activities for coordinating with state governments on the collection of geospatial data; however, state officials GAO contacted are generally not satisfied with the committee’s efforts to coordinate with them. Among other reasons, they feel that the committee is focused on a federal perspective rather than a national one, and that state recommendations are often ignored. In addition, selected agencies have made limited progress in their own strategic planning efforts and in using the clearinghouse to register their data to ensure they do not invest in duplicative data. For example, 8 of the committee’s 32 member agencies have begun to register their data on the clearinghouse, and they have registered 59 percent of the geospatial data they deemed critical. Part of the reason that agencies are not fulfilling their responsibilities is that OMB has not made it a priority to oversee these efforts. Until OMB ensures that FGDC and federal agencies fully implement their responsibilities, the vision of improving the coordination of geospatial information and reducing duplicative investments will not be fully realized.

OMB guidance calls for agencies to eliminate duplication, avoid redundant expenditures, and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the sharing and dissemination of geospatial data. However, some data are collected multiple times by federal, state, and local entities, resulting in duplication in effort and resources. A new initiative to create a national address database could potentially result in significant savings for federal, state, and local governments. However, agencies face challenges in effectively coordinating address data collection efforts, including statutory restrictions on sharing certain federal address data. Until there is effective coordination across the National Spatial Data Infrastructure, there will continue to be duplicative efforts to obtain and maintain these data at every level of government.

Why GAO Did This Study

The federal government collects, maintains, and uses geospatial information—data linked to specific geographic locations—to help support varied missions, including national security and natural resources conservation. To coordinate geospatial activities, in 1994 the President issued an executive order to develop a National Spatial Data Infrastructure—a framework for coordination that includes standards, data themes, and a clearinghouse. GAO was asked to review federal and state coordination of geospatial data.

GAO’s objectives were to (1) describe the geospatial data that selected federal agencies and states use and how much is spent on geospatial data; (2) assess progress in establishing the National Spatial Data Infrastructure; and (3) determine whether selected federal agencies and states invest in duplicative geospatial data. To do so, GAO identified federal and state uses of geospatial data; evaluated available cost data from 2013 to 2015; assessed FGDC’s and selected agencies’ efforts to establish the infrastructure; and analyzed federal and state datasets to identify duplication.

What GAO Recommends

GAO suggests that Congress consider assessing statutory limitations on address data to foster progress toward a national address database. GAO also recommends that OMB improve its oversight of FGDC and federal agency initiatives, and that FGDC and selected agencies fully implement initiatives. The agencies generally agreed with the recommendations and identified plans to implement them.

For more information, contact David A. Powner at (202) 512-9286 or

PDF of Report and Full Recommendations can be downloaded here.

Read More…

Why Maps Matter

by Frank Konkel, FCW, March 17, 2014

And as mapping technology advances, it allows for far more than foolproof directions. Federal agencies now use geospatial data, geo-analytics and multi-layered maps for myriad purposes, including gathering intelligence, predicting disease outbreaks and sharing data pools with the public.

For full text of the article, please click here.


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